UCL Research Domains


Media Digest: February 2018

9 March 2018

A roundup of current news articles and stories related to our core research themes in February 2018.

newspaper digest


Gut microbiota changes could help develop future type 1 diabetes treatments [DIABETES UK, 21 February 2018]

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia have found distinct gut microbiota alterations in rodents and humans that are at high risk of type 1 diabetes.

Some viruses produce insulin-like hormones that can stimulate human cells -- and have potential to cause disease [SCIENCE DAILY, 19 February 2018]

Scientists have identified four viruses that can produce insulin-like hormones that are active on human cells. The discovery brings new possibilities for revealing biological mechanisms that may cause diabetes or cancer.

Working Nights May Raise Diabetes Risk [NEW YORK TIMES, February 21 2018]

Night-shift work is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, a new study has found. British researchers used a large health database to compare diabetes prevalence in 47,286 night-shift workers with that of 224,928 day workers.


The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds [NEW YORK TIMES, 20 February 2018]

A new study, published Tuesday in JAMA found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

Findings do not support suggestion that certain diets may be better for adults with certain genetic makeup [EUREKA ALERT, 20 February 2018]

No one diet strategy is consistently better than others for weight loss in the general population. Some studies have suggested variations in people's genetic makeup could make it easier for some to lose weight than others on certain diets. Other studies have reported a person's insulin secretion may explain different weight loss.

How too much fructose may cause liver damage [THE ECONOMIST, 10 February 2018]

FRUCTOSE is the sweetest of the natural sugars. As its name suggests, it is found mainly in fruits. Its job seems to be to appeal to the sweet tooths of the vertebrates these fruit have evolved to be eaten by, the better to scatter their seeds far and wide. Fructose is also, however, often added by manufacturers of food and drink, to sweeten their products and make them appeal to one species of vertebrate in particular, namely Homo sapiens. And that may be a problem, because too much fructose in the diet seems to be associated with liver disease and type 2 diabetes.


Study illuminates tiny RNA’s role in heart disease, obesity [YALE NEWS, 20 February 2018]

A tiny RNA molecule plays a big role in the development of two diseases affecting billions of people worldwide: heart disease and obesity. Yale researchers have found that by disrupting this microRNA in key tissues, they can reduce plaque build-up in arteries while avoiding unintended effects.

Environmental Noise and the Cardiovascular System [MEDICAL NEWS TODAY TELEGRAPH, 12 February 2018]

Although healthcare providers will focus on traditional risk factors when they diagnose, prevent, and treat heart disease, ever more evidence is supporting the notion that risk factors in the physical environment may contribute to heart disease, as well.

Progress in reducing premature heart attack deaths ‘stalls’

[iNEWS, January 30 2018]

Progress in reducing premature heart attack deaths has stalled according to a leading charity which says more research is needed to stop progress declining further.


Securing a child's future needs to start during parents' teen years [SCIENCE DAILY, 21 February 2018]

A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy -- even going back to adolescence -- according to a new paper in Nature.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food [THE GUARDIAN, 11 February 2018]

New research shows that school-based programmes won’t solve the crisis. Without tougher action on the food industry, it will cash in – while the rest of us pay.

Clues to obesity's roots found in brain's quality control process [EUREKA ALERT, 20 February 2018]

One key to a healthy weight may lie deep inside the brain, in the endoplasmic reticulum of cells that produce the "grandfather" of appetite-regulating hormones.

Your body wants to be fat. Science wants to change its mind [SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 14 February 2018]

The empty stomach starts to pump the appetite hormone ghrelin into the blood, clouding our minds with hunger. Go on a prolonged diet and AgRP neurons in the hypothalamus, specially designed to sense hunger, switch into starvation mode. In work published in Cell Reports on Wednesday, Dr Andrews’ team showed that if the switch can be flicked on, it can also be flicked off. 

The team used mice genetically modified to lack an important enzyme, Crat. This molecular switch tells AgRP neurons to put the body into starvation mode.

Obese city: why we must design walkability back into Sydney [THE FIFTH ESTATE, 12 February 2018]

Sydney works against us on health – and, on a more personal note, Diabetes 2 – argues Tim Williams. It’s designing walking out of our lives, building low density suburbs far away from jobs, shops, schools and public transport, and prioritising cars above pedestrians.


There's room for progress on tackling sustainability through the supply chain [GREENBIZ, 20 February 2018]

A new Stanford University study of big, global suppliers found that more than half the companies reviewed had adopted some type of sustainable sourcing practices, and among those, large, well-known, consumer-facing companies with valuable brands were the most likely to have sustainable sourcing practices.

Diet has more impact on climate change than transportation. Here's how to fix that. [BIG THINK, 19 February 2018]

The cultural impact of the sixties has left a lasting legacy. In a recent NY Times book review of “Hippie Food,” Michael Pollan writes that beyond environmentalism, feminism, and civil and gay rights, how we eat—not just what we eat—drastically changed. The consequences of this movement influence the ways in which we navigate grocery aisles today.


Trade and the equitability of global food nutrient distribution  [NATURE, February 2018]

Access to sufficient, nutritious food is a basic human right and is necessary to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. We demonstrate that international food trade, in the current global system, is essential to nutrient access and enables some poorer countries to be able to nourish up to hundreds of millions of people. Protectionist trade policies could therefore have serious negative consequences for food security.

Child obesity soaring in Vietnam with urban youngsters at highest risk [FOOD NAVIGATOR ASIA, 21 February 2018]

Childhood obesity is rapidly increasing in Vietnam with a new study revealing that 11.2% of youngsters aged six to 10 are overweight and 10.1% obese.


Vampire bat's blood-only diet 'a big evolutionary win' [PHYS.ORG, 20 February 2018]

"Vampire bats have an 'extreme' diet, in the sense that it requires many adaptations in the organism," said lead author Lisandra Zepeda Mendoza, a biogeneticist at the University of Copenhagen and an expert on the microbiome, the community of microorganisms camped out in the digestive tract.

We’re evolving a gene that may stop us from drinking alcohol NEW SCIENTIST, 19 February 2018]

Novel gene variants are known to have arisen and spread among humans in the recent past. One allows some people to tolerate the lactose in cow’s milk, so they can digest dairy produce. Other rapidly changing genes have been linked with education, smoking and Alzheimer’s disease.

People have been drinking alcohol for many thousands of years, so it seems reasonable that our taste for booze – and the attendant dangers – could also have affected our genes.